The Current·Q&A

Russia wants to destroy Mariupol, not capture it, says man who fled besieged city

Artur Shevchenko fled the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol three days ago, as Russian forces closed in.

As Russian forces lay siege to Mariupol, Artur Shevchenko melted snow for water

A man walks near a block of flats, which was destroyed during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol on Thursday. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Read Story Transcript

Despite being surrounded by Russian forces, the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol defiantly rejected the Kremlin's demand for surrender Monday, even before the deadline passed.

"There can be no talk of any surrender, laying down of arms," Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk told the news outlet Ukrainian Pravda.

The city has suffered three weeks of bombings, including a strike on a maternity hospital, and public buildings where civilians were taking shelter. Electricity and communication lines have been cut off, and food and water is running low. Tens of thousands of Mariupol's 400,000 residents have fled the siege, with the Financial Times reporting that those who remain have been forced to slaughter stray dogs for food.

WATCH | Ukrainian officials reject Russian demand for surrender

Ukraine rejects Russia's demand for Mariupol surrender

5 months ago
Duration 7:08
Ukrainian officials have defiantly rejected a Russian demand that their forces in Mariupol lay down arms and raise white flags in exchange for safe passage out of the besieged city.

Mariupol officials said at least 2,300 people have died in the siege, according to the Associated Press. 

Artur Shevchenko fled Mariupol three days ago and is now in the western city of Khmelnytskyi. He told The Current's guest host Mark Kelley what the city was like before he left.

Before you left Mariupol, what did you see? Describe what has happened to your city.

Almost all of the city is destroyed, like, buildings as you mentioned, the churches etc., all was bombed. And even the places where children and women were hiding, they were also hit by Russians. It was terrible. 

It was [a] siege, like, without any water, heat, electricity, no mobile networks. It was tough even to communicate with other family members. 

And who were you with at the time, with your family? And how were you surviving this onslaught? 

I took my mother and my grandfather. He is 88 years old, and he cannot walk. So we jumped in my car and we moved to the shelter and we lived there for two weeks without electricity.

We got some water … we tried even to melt the snow. We had a couple of days when there was snowing, and we took the snow into the baskets.

But it is not really the solution because ... this water became dirty. 

And why did you decide to go to Khmelnytskyi? 

It was the only choice to take because we got a lot of rumours, while we were sitting in this shelter, about some humanitarian corridors.

It was all fake, because Russians refused to make these corridors. They allowed corridors only to Russia, saying that it is the only safe road to [a] safe place. And it was, I guess, three days ago when a lot of people from Mariupol took their cars and tried to leave the city, to [the] Ukraine side. It was not the official humanitarian corridor. It was more like [a] gathering of people trying to leave the city. And we did the same.

Were you afraid for your safety as you escaped? 

Yes, sure.

We were like driving by the sea district from the city, and we were hearing a lot of shelling in this district while we were leaving. It was, I guess, hundreds of cars, and the road was really tiny, like only one place for a car to drive through.

Do you think you'll ever go back home?

I dream of it, like I want to come back. Some buildings can be restored, but some buildings should be built from scratch. First of all, we were thinking that the Russians want to invade the city. But in the latest days, we understood that the Russians want to destroy the city, just to destroy it and to push all the people from it.

So I don't know will I come back.

Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Cameron Perrier.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?